Oriental Trading Company

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Oriental Trading Company logo

The Oriental Trading Company is a direct marketing company for novelties, small toys, and party items. It was founded in 1932 as one of the United States' first wholesale companies. It is based in Omaha, Nebraska, and its majority owner is the Carlyle Group. It has an extensive line of Christian merchandise and is one of the largest players in that market.

In 2006 it was reported the company has 18 million customer names on file, mails 300 million catalogs annually and has more than 25,000 products.[1] It has 1,500,000 square feet (140,000 m2) of office and warehouse space in Iowa and Nebraska, and employs more than 3,000.

On November 2, 2012 Berkshire Hathaway announced they would acquire the company.[2][3]


The company was founded as a gift shop in 1932 in Omaha, Nebraska, by Harry Watanabe. The company expanded to 17 shops in the Midwest. During World War II, with restrictions against imports from Japan, the company shrank back to its Omaha base. Watanabe then bought a ceramic shop which made Kewpie dolls and other ceramic items.[4] In 1954 it resumed its imports from Japan and was a major carnival supplier. In 1956 it launched its first catalog.

In 1977 Watanabe's son Terry Watanabe became president and its focus shifted from carnivals to supplying party goods for churches, schools, retailers, and individuals.

In 2000, Watanabe sold his entire stake in the company to Los Angeles-based private equity firm Brentwood Associates, and resigned as CEO and President. [5] Watanabe is alleged to have had alcohol and gambling problems resulting in losing US$204 million to the Rio and Caesars Palace casinos in Las Vegas in 2007. [6] Harrah's, which owns the two casinos, derived 5.6% of its revenues that year from Watanabe. He has paid $112 million but refused to pay the rest prompting Harrah's to file criminal charges against Watanabe. [7] On July 8, 2010, a global settlement was reached between Harrah's Entertainment and Watanabe resulting in a dismissal of both the civil and criminal cases.[8]

In 2002 Brentwood Associates entered into an agreement to expand the company.

In 2006 Carlyle Group bought 68 percent interest in the company with Brentwood owning a reported 25 percent.[1]

On August 24, 2010, Oriental Trading Company via OTC Holdings Corp. in case 10-12636 declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware saying in its filing papers that it had $463 million in assets at April 3, 2010 and $756.6 million in liabililities with net sales of $485.4 million. It reported it was sending out 300 million catalogs a year and generates half its sales online.[9]

The company's CEO was featured in the March 10, 2012 episode of the TV show 'Undercover Boss'.


  1. ^ a b Oriental Trading Sold multichannelmerchant.com - June 13, 2006
  2. ^ Michael J. De La Merced (November 2, 2012). "Berkshire to Buy Oriental Trading Company". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ "Berkshire Hathaway to Acquire Oriental Trading Company" (PDF) (Press release). Berkshire Hathaway. November 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ Oriental Trading Company Through the Years - orientaltrading.com
  5. ^ "Metro/Region". Omaha.com. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  6. ^ Richard C. Paddock San Francisco Correspondent (2009-02-18). "Vegas' Biggest Loser: Terrance Watanabe's Losses Now Over $200 Million". Aolnews.com. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  7. ^ Berzon, Alexandra (2009-12-05). "The Gambler Who Blew $127 Million - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  8. ^ "High roller strikes deal with Harrah's over debt - News - ReviewJournal.com". Lvrj.com. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  9. ^ McCarty, Dawn (2010-08-25). "Oriental Trading Co. Files for Bankruptcy in Delaware". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 

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